We’re incredibly excited to announce our Series A investment in Origin today, a company pioneering the concept of “open additive production” and poised to usher in a new era of additive-enabled mass production. This blog post lays out our thoughts on the space and why we think Origin’s ecosystem-based model is so critical to the technology’s maturity and ability to scale.
Background & the Promise of Additive:
The technology behind additive manufacturing (also known as “3D printing”) isn’t new — in fact the light based curing approach powering many of today’s enterprise-grade printers harkens back to a patent filed by Chuck Hall in 1987. And the promise has always been there as well — for consumer printers the ability to download and print items at home, and for enterprise-grade printers impossible geometries otherwise unachievable through traditional manufacturing, zero tooling and setup costs, lower inventory costs, flexible batch sizes, and mass customization.
Challenges Limiting the Technology’s Ability to Scale to Mass Production:
To date though, the vast majority of consumer printers have been relegated to printing household baubles and trinkets, and enterprise-grade printers to use in prototyping vs mass production. On the enterprise front, specifically, two challenges need to be addressed to enable the technology to scale — 1) costs, which are too high, and 2) material options, which are too limited. We believe these challenges exist largely as a result of incumbents being locked to “printer and ink” vertically integrated business models.
To understand why — imagine a world where Apple and Google were the only developers allowed to build on iOS and Android. In such a world, there might never have been a Lyft, a Spotify, a WeChat, or any number of other 3rd party apps. And in the absence of competition the cost of apps that did exist would likely be high. That’s the world we live in today in additive manufacturing with companies locked to “printer and ink” vertically integrated business models, limiting material selection and resulting in costs prohibitive to scale. As applied to the additive manufacturing industry — we believe that no single company or chemist can meet the diverse needs and requirements of customers across all verticals. That is, for the industry to mature we’ll necessarily need to empower designers and engineers with the broadest palette of materials as possible at costs amenable to scale.
Enter Origin and “Open Additive Production”:
The path to scale we see in Origin is a fundamentally different approach to additive manufacturing centered around 1) an open material network, and 2) a software-defined approach to hardware that achieves precision and accuracy through software-control rather than hardware complexity and cost. Together, these enable Origin to deliver part quality on-par with traditional manufacturing, at per-part costs far lower than competitors to date, and across a far broader spectrum of materials properties and textures. Origin calls this approach Open Additive Production.
In contrast to incumbents, Origin operates an open network designed specifically to enable 3rd party material partners, each of who are experts in their respective classes of materials and chemistry, to develop on the platform. Decoupling material development and printing enables Origin to deliver a far broader choice-set of materials specifications (including custom materials), at costs sufficiently low to enable mass production. And the model is already bearing fruit in the form of materials with better energy return than anything on the market today, and polymers with heat deflection temperatures above 220C, and impact resistance figures above 100 J/m.
Origin was founded by Chris Prucha (formerly a software engineer at Apple and co-founder at Notion) and Joel Ong (formerly a software engineer at Google X). We were first introduced to the team through our portfolio CEO Ran Ma (thank you Ran!), and saw in them the passion, drive, and intentionality we look for in entrepreneurs. We’re honored and privileged to join their team alongside existing investors including Mike Maples at Floodgate and Semil Shah at Haystack, among others, and excited about the journey ahead.
If you’re interested in leveraging additive manufacturing technology to mass produce impossible geometries, mass customize parts, or compress your supply chain / minimize inventory, check them out at Origin.io. Also keep an eye out for exciting breakthrough material innovation announcements to come.
If you’re an entrepreneur tackling a big problem in the design or manufacturing space, reach out to us. We’d love to chat.
Jason Krikorian, Jeff Lee, and Ibrahim AlSuwaidi